Apple, to name only one of many brands, is often decried for the scheduled expiration date of its products. To put it simply, the programmed obsolescence is a vice of manufacturers to gradually reduce the capabilities of a device so that the consumer is ultimately forced to change it – ideally for a product of the same brand. Judged as outrageous given the prices charged, the practice is increasingly denounced publicly. And these five reasons show that we are (perhaps) on the right track to finally eradicate it, even if it may be a long process.
Impossible to prove?
In France, as stated by Usine Nouvelle, programmed obsolescence is considered an offense punishable by imprisonment and a fine of 300,000 euros since August 17, 2015. The law states that it includes “all the techniques aiming to reduce the lifespan or duration of use of a product in order to increase its replacement rate”, but it’s a very difficult thing to prove for a consumer on his own. And the fact that manufacturers are releasing a new product every year is not an acceptable argument. Hortense De Roux, the author of the article, advocates for group actions.
A first complaint
A group was precisely created in that sense in July 2015: Stop Planned Obsolescence (Halte à l’Obsolescence Programmée, HOP). Their action consists in informing consumers, federating them and finally weighing on legislation towards a change. On September 18, 2017, HOP was the first group to file complaints against trademarks for proved cases of programmed obsolescence. In their sights, among others, Epson, the Japanese manufacturer of printers. The statement issued by the association provides several concrete examples, such as “the ink absorber pad, falsely indicated the end of their service life” that causes “the deliberate blocking of impressions under the pretext that the ink cartridges are empty, even if there is still ink left”. Could this unprecedented initiative prove that major manufacturers are not untouchable? Verdict has yet to be given.
If your iPhone expires after a year, it is not Apple’s fault
Until now, the hunt for programmed obsolescence was hampered by invariable parades. Of these, the most obvious is the warranty period. As Motherboard tells, Apple is currently in trial following a complaint about their iPhone 6 falling apart. It states that “consumers reasonably expect that smartphones will remain operable for at least two years when not subject to abuse or neglect because the overwhelming majority of smartphone users are required to sign service contracts with cellular carriers for two year periods.” The catch is that the hardware warranty of Apple products is only one year long. If the product is defective after this period, it is – for now – not the responsibility of Apple.
Fighting programmed obsolescence could be beneficial for job creation
On July 3, 2017, a report was submitted to the European Parliament by the Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) before being adopted the following day. It states that programmed obsolescence, expected to generate a record 47.8 million tons of electrical and electronic waste in 2017, must be legislated by the European Commission. Moreover, the end of the planned obsolescence scheme could enhance the work of repairers, neglected by consumers. The report adds that “recent studies show that if European companies favored the re-use of their computers rather than their recycling, 10,500 non-delocalizable jobs could be created in the EU while saving an annual emission of nearly 6 million tons of greenhouse gases and 44 million cubic meters, without including raw materials”.
The Livermore bulb
Told by The New Yorker, the story of Livermore’s bulb, which has been shining since 1901, fines all the foundations of programmed obsolescence. It even survived its creator. A dedicated webcam, whose image updates every 30 seconds, shows that it is still shining bright. Which means that if manufacturers really want it, they have the power to do it.